A/N: So here is the absolute final chapter that has taken me months to write… I'm really sorry about that. But it's hard to write something sad when you're incredibly happy… {Side note I got engaged!} So I had to wait until I could really get into a mood to write this… I wanted this chapter to pull at your heartstrings and I hope I did that. But you will have to let me know. I hope I did the ending justice after such a long wait but you will have to let me know. I love reviews…so without further ado… The End…

Elements of an Ill-Fated Romance

Chapter Thirteen: She Never Knew…

Playlist…'Better Man' by: James Morrison and 'Breathe Again' By: Sara Bareilles.

He's not sure how he ended up here… it hadn't been his intention…of that he is sure. When he threw his duffel bag into the backseat of his car and drove away from the only true home he had ever known he had every intention of taking the I-95 straight out of Mystic Falls. But somehow he ended up a block away from Elena's house and the next thing he knew he was in her bedroom.

For a moment he just stood there in the center of her room taking it all in. The photos cut and taped to her mirror. The plethora of perfume bottles cluttering her dresser, her Vervain necklace hanging from her bedpost and a pile of clothes cluttered by her closet. He moved to the bed… fluffy white and pastel colored pillows heaped on top of one another, hidden only by a zoo of stuffed animals. Reaching out he grabbed the multi-colored Llama that seemed somewhat separate from the others… just a bit out of place. A creamy ivory with sandy brown feet; it was worn around the edges, the fabric that made up its hooves peeling, and the nose almost completely gone. Running a hand over its short stubby tail he didn't even hear Elena come in.

"Damon… what are you doing here?" He turned to her the stuffed animal still in hand. "Is it Bonnie… is she okay?" She asked closing the door and coming to stand in front of him, hands on her hips. Worry lines etched around her mouth he couldn't help but notice that her lips weren't like Bonnie's… not as full… not as…as…

He cleared his throat unable to finish that thought. "The witch is the same as before… no real change." He answered. "You know you really should never take that off." He remarked pointing to the necklace.

She nodded even as confusion set in. "I don't take it with me in the shower…What are you doing here; with my Llama?" She asked the corner of her mouth lifting slightly upward.

He looked down just taking notice. His fingers dug just a little deeper into the plushy object as though trying to memorize the feel of it… the texture of the fur before meeting her eyes again. He handed it over as she reached for it…albeit somewhat reluctantly.

"Bonnie gave it to me when I was seven… We were going through our 'Emperor's New Groove' phase! I mean who gives a llama to her best friend on her birthday?" She asked hugging it close to her chest.

He tried not to analyze the connection even as the soft vibration beneath his skin pulsed just a bit harder at the mention of her name. Swallowing he exhaled a deep breath as he shoved his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket.

"So… what's up?" She asked. "Wait don't tell me… Stefan sent you over here to convince me not to sneak out and check on Bonnie…which is ridiculous because I am coming over so he can just…" She began to rant.

"I just came to say good-bye." He cut in.

There was a pause. "Good-bye; you're leaving?" She asked.

And he probably shouldn't take heart in the fact that she truly does seem upset but he can't help it. There is a part of him that wants her to miss him…wants her to ask him to stay…in spite of everything that has happened between him and Bonnie there is something inside him that wants Elena to want him…

He's so fucked up!

"Don't sound so upset… I'll start to think that you care."

She sighed. "But what about…The Originals?"

He arched an eyebrow. It was strange how alike her and Stefan were. "They're not coming back… at least not until they get their shit together… they got their asses kicked by a witch… a newbie witch…"

She shook her head. "I mean is it safe to leave right now though?"

He shrugged slightly. "I'm sure that Stefan can handle himself." It's a lie and he's pretty sure that Elena knows that.

"And Bonnie?" She asked after a moment.

"Bonnie took on two of those guys all by herself! Stefan should be taking lessons from her." He quipped.

She shook her head. "No that's not what I meant…" She swallowed hard, and he can't help but notice the hesitation in her eyes. Running a hand through her long brown tendrils she exhaled a heavy breath. "I'm not sure if I should even be telling you this… but… well Bonnie…she has… feelings for you."

He stared at her for a moment, eyes blinking several times. The way she struggled over her words to reveal what she obviously thought was a major secret; something that he was more than aware of. He tried not to smile at the irony…at the thought that what she had simplified as 'feelings' was in fact so much more… Elena had no real understanding of exactly what Bonnie Bennett felt for him. He fought the smile that desperately wanted to emerge and instead nodded.

"You mean her feelings of hatred and loathing that she has for me?" He asked and watched Elena shift under his unwavering stare.

"Bonnie doesn't hate you." She replied.

"Really," he asked as he tried to restrain the sarcasm. "My popped blood vessels say otherwise."

"Well…things can change… I mean she risked her life to save you… if she hated you she wouldn't have done that." She reasoned.

"Unless she did it for you." He supplied with a smirk belying the internal anxiousness that he felt because somewhere in the back of his mind he knew that he shouldn't push this. He shouldn't goad her into saying something that he already knows…

'…it won't help…'

'…it's a mistake'

But he doesn't stop. "We both know that your best friend would do anything for you… even save me, lest we forget the Founders Day basement incident. She's loyal to you Elena… and perhaps a little bit to Stefan." He added with an acerbic smile.

"Founders Day was different."

"I'm listening…"

'Stop this… it won't end well!'

That tiny voice that sounded vaguely like a judgmental witch resounded in the back of his mind but still he raised an eyebrow in Elena's direction. He wanted to hear someone else say it… perhaps to validate what deep down he has always known.

She shrugged and he can't help but think that the gesture reminds him of Bonnie. It's an awkward movement of a half lift as she continued to toy with the llama in her hands. "Well on Founders Days… she was trying to right a wrong that she felt she had done…" She hedged.

"You mean trying to make up for lying to your face." He stated bluntly because he was still a little bitter about that.

Rolling her eyes she cocked her head to one side. "Bonnie had good reason for why she did what she did… even to you." She remarked with an arched eyebrow. "Especially to you."

He stayed silent if only for a beat. "Point taken," he stated with a casual shrug grabbing the llama from her hands in one swift motion and tossing it nonchalantly in the air. "Which just proves all the more that her saving me has nothing to do with her feelings changing."

"Yes it does… Bonnie risked her life for you Damon and she didn't have to. This wasn't like last time where she helped Stefan to save you… she put herself in harms way to rescue you… and not because I asked her to." Turning so they were face to face she watched him as he stared down at the llama in his hands and like a block falling into place it clicked. "But you know this." Her words soft, traveled across the room and forced him to meet her stare. With a slight shake of her head she placed her hands on her hips ready to go into full reprimand mode. "You know this already…" This time her words were accusatory because for the first time ever she has seen through his façade.

He shrugged once again but remained silent.

"You know how Bonnie feels about you?" And although her words are phrased as a question they are anything but. "Damon why would you pretend…" She began when he cut her off.

"I love you!" The words tumble from his lips as though they are being physically pulled from his body. As if they are being ripped from his soul and the impact of them force Elena to inhale deeply and take a step back. "I love you Elena." He stated again looking down at the llama in self reflection. And the words are the truth…as complicated as it makes everyone's life…they are still true.

"Damon…" She began not sure how she should respond. The words 'I love Stefan' are already on the tip of her tongue when he cuts her off.

"…like I loved Katherine..." He admitted softly even as his eyes flicked from the llama in his hands to her brown eyes. The statement is an epiphany that comes crashing down on him like the breaking of a wave against the shore. A sad, wry smile pulled at the corners of his lips. It's the kind of love that makes him desperate… needy…irrational. It's the kind of love that makes him think it's okay to hurt the people around him…tears his life apart and tries to break others.

He exhaled deeply, his thumb absently running over the top of the stuffed animal. "It's the kind of love that's not good for me… but it's the only way I know how to love." He admitted. And the confession hurts his un-beating heart in ways that he could never explain. "And we both know…Bonnie won't have me that way." His smile is wistful, reminiscent of a man reminded of something that he has lost even before it was ever truly his.

The situation reminds him of Katherine; the way he loved her, wanted her… would have given up everything for her… and how he thought she felt the same. Only this time it's so much worst, because this time… it's real. Bonnie's feelings are real… genuine in spite of everything.

She wants him…

She furrowed her brow even as it became clear what he was trying to convey. "Damon…"

"She'll demand better of me… and I owe it to her to… to… try." The last word faltered and tripped out of his mouth because he's not certain that it's the right one… For Bonnie there is no 'try'. There is only 'do' or 'do not'.

Stepping into his personal space she exhaled a deep breath. "You love her."

He smiled, his bright blue eyes catching the light in her room made him look so young…so innocent. "Is that what I'm doing…loving her… by leaving her?" He asked cocking his head to the side even as he placed the stuffed animal back on her bed. "I'm not sure that's how love works. All I know is that…" he exhaled and his breath hitched on his next words…"I want to be a better man for her."

Almost on instinct she reached for him. Her hand brushing up and down his arm; it was a confusing gesture that could be seen in so many different ways; taken as comfort or easily misconstrued for something else…something more…

Looking up his eyes locked with hers and in that moment he realized something very profound. This emotion that existed inside of him for both women… as powerful as it was… had two completely different effects on the man he was. As though born from two complete opposite sides of a spectrum he finally understood the difference of what these two females represented to him.

Elena was … the physical embodiment of what he equated with love… a desperate uncontrollable urge to be needed… to exist for no other reason than to be deemed worthy. Where anything and everything was okay as long as it was in the name of love; even wrongful, selfish acts. She was comfortable, familiar territory. He always knew what was expected of him. Love wasn't just an emotion but an excuse to be used at his disposal. It was a crutch to lean on when he did awful things to those around him. It was a reason to make others sacrifice everything…

Bonnie on the other hand, was what he always wanted love to be but never thought was achievable… new uncharted area where the possibilities were endless. Nothing was unattainable… nothing was too much and expectations were constant and high It was the rocky, uncertain terrain where love could be as selfless as it was effortless… where he was just as easily to get his heart broken as he was to get his love returned ten-fold. Love sometimes meant sacrifice…self-sacrifice. Yes, there could be insurmountable joy but he had to rise to the occasion.

In order to receive more from love he would have to become more!

It was that simple… and that complicated.

Elena stood before him her eyes watered with emotion. "That's love, Damon." She assured him smiling tremulously. "And if you tell Bonnie this… she'll understand." She remarked.

He shook his head. "No… no I'm not telling Bonnie," He refused.

"Why not; Damon, you have to tell her the truth…"

"Tell her what truth? That I may or may not be able to be the man she deserves. That I might be able to give her everything but then again… I'm not sure?" He asked sarcastically. "Doesn't exactly make a girl swoon; does it?"

"So what's your solution… just sneak off into the night without so much as a good-bye? That's being a coward and you know it. You love her… and she deserves to know that! Damon if you leave like this… I know that you think you're protecting her but you're not. You're just going to break her heart."

"Better I do it now than later." He quipped walking around her towards her bedroom window her words making him halt.

"If you don't tell her the truth… I will." She warned. Her eyes trained on his back she could see him stiffen ever so slightly before he threw his head back and exhaled deeply almost tiredly.

"No… Elena… you won't. Because you won't remember…"

She shook her head a rebuttal already on her lips. "Of course I will…" In the next moment he was in her face, his eyes level with her own. "Damon…" She began and in the blink of an eye she was alone in her bedroom not sure what she had been doing just a moment ago. The fluttering of her bedroom curtains caught her eye. Taking a step in that direction she jolted at the sound of her cell phone ringing. At the sight of Stefan's name all thoughts of anything before went out the window…along with any sign that Damon had ever been there.

"Hey… I'm on my way over… is Bonnie okay?" She asked going to her dresser and grabbing her necklace. Placing it around her neck she listened as Stefan assured her that her best friend was fine.

Meanwhile…

Three Days Later…

The morning that Bonnie Bennett awakes from her coma, there is sun pouring in from an open window. The smell of lavender and fresh cotton dances under her nose and she can hear Meadow Larks and Blue Jays humming in the distance. Silk and satin greets her fingertips as she runs them over the golden yellow sheets she is wrapped in. Physically she feels great. As if there is an unexplained energy that is running through her veins. She can't explain it but she can feel it. She feels fresh… renewed… and more powerful than ever before… yet there is a distinct heaviness in her chest… an ache that thrums inside her with every beat of her heart.

She doesn't know how… she doesn't know why… but for some reason she just knows… even before Stefan comes in… his face drawn and somber relaying the news…

In her heart she just knows…

Damon is gone…

Stefan is there in the next moment with Alaric right behind him. Unblinkingly she listens to the younger brother tell her how long she has been out. She watches Alaric with mild disinterest as he checks her vitals… and tries to explain to her what she has gone through… it's strange because she thought he was a teacher by day, vampire hunter by night…

So when did he become a doctor?

And when Elena stumbles in, falls into her arms, crying tears of relief and joy she smiles and assures her that she is fine. She accepts her hugs like a good best friend and listens as she gives her a run down of everything that she has missed. She even manages to offer up a laugh at Jeremy's lame jokes… and no one mentions the obvious missing individual. But there is a void that exists…with every word that it uttered…when those around her falter on his name…his presence is felt even with him not there. They simply go through the motions as though he was never meant to be there… but the void in her chest remains.

She asks about her father… and it's Stefan who promises her that it's been handled.

And although she expresses her gratitude to Stefan she knows that it's not him who has handled it… She insists that she goes home to see him for herself. That she longs for the comfort of her own room… her own bed… and Elena is quick to appease her. She offers to drive her not sure that Bonnie should be behind the wheel so soon and she doesn't argue. She has no desire to argue…

They leave her alone in the room to gather what little belongings she has there. The silence is deafening to her ears and the ache in her chest seems to hammer against her insides just a bit harder with each breath. She goes to the window, standing directly in the path of sunlight that filters in. It is warm over her flesh and without warning tears form threatening to overflow but they do not fall… and when Stefan knocks at the door they are gone even before she meets his eyes. She gives him a small smile as she passes him in the doorway and he exhales deeply.

"Bonnie…" He begins and for just a moment she thinks that perhaps he will tell her something… anything… as if Damon has left her some kind of message… some kind of reason for leaving… but when she looks into his eyes she realizes that anything that he would say to her would be from him and not his older brother… and she decides then that she doesn't want to hear it.

"It's okay." She finally states even if it is a lie. It is not okay…nothing is okay.

He nods. "If you need anything…I'm here."

She doesn't reply because they both know it's not him that she needs. It's not his words that she wants… but then again… This was always a possibility. He had warned her that this might happen… But the rejection she feels… hurts. It creates tiny cracks over her beating heart and makes her breath hitch on every exhale.

But she does not cry…

She will not cry…

And as she sits in the passenger seat of her own car she continues to repeat those four words in her head like a mantra never once noticing the gathering of storm clouds above that steadily roll in and block out the sun.

By the time she reaches home she has lost count of how many times she has had to reassure Elena that if she needs anything she would be the first person she called. However her words feel empty… because really what could Elena offer her? What could she give? She stands on the porch watching as Stefan who has followed them there in his own car drives off with Elena barely registering the scent of rain as it hovers in the air or the fact that the sky has grown gray.

The house is quiet and she is grateful for the silence. She makes her way to the kitchen finding her father behind the island cutting up what looks to be green peppers. He looks up at the sound of her steps and gives her a genuine smile that wraps itself around her heart with an agonizing tightness that she doesn't expect. It's not until this moment that she truly realizes how close she has come to never seeing him again… to losing the only parent she has left…

The only man that has ever loved her…

"Hey baby girl… making Stir-Fry." He remarks casually and before he can finish she is running to him. Wrapping her arms around him tightly she places her cheek against his chest. Her chin just barely meets his upper torso and as she breathes in deeply she takes in his familiar scent.

It is the smell of comfort and peace…

It is the smell of safety and love…

It is the smell of home… finally she is home.

Her heart slams rapidly against her chest as images of all that has happened passes before her eyes…

She could have died…

She hugs him just a bit tighter and she is vaguely aware of the rumbling sound of thunder that shakes the house ever so slightly. She feels her father's hands come to rest at her back and there is a slight hesitation because this is unexpected. They do not do this. They are not this kind of family…haven't been since her mother walked out on them.

"Bonnie..." The hesitation in his voice is evident. Something has happened…but he's not sure she would tell him…not sure talking is what she needs. Instead he rubs her back soothingly and kisses the top of her head. He cannot fix what is wrong…somehow he knows that…but he can be there for her… he can be her father… "Did some young man break your heart?" He asks softly.

And there is something about the question that makes her want to laugh and cry at the same time.

The question is absurd… and it's true.

And…she hates it!

But there are no words…she just doesn't have the words. Instead she nods and steps closer to her father only vaguely aware of the sound of rain.

Water droplets pelt the glass windows and falls on the rooftop of her home…but she does not cry…

…tears never fall…

…but the rain continues for 26 days straight….

One Month Later…

The days go by in a wet succession until one day…there's no more rain… no sign of a gray cloud in the sky and it seems that perhaps this will be the day everything resumes back to normal.

And as Stefan watches a Raven flap its wings across the morning sky, he feels a great unease in the pit of his stomach…

This will be the day…

That night they gather at the Gilbert residence for the first time in months… a sleepover for three best friends. They watch chick flicks in the living room; they eat copious amounts of junk food and do each other's hair. They laugh like they haven't done in months and it feels good… it feels right…it feels normal.

They stay up way too late, talking about the things that teenage girls should talk about. How Elena is head over heels in love with Stefan, how Bonnie should think about cutting her hair; how Caroline might leave cheerleading. They paint their nails and indulge in gossip and it's all so incredibly shallow… and it feels great! And there's no mention of vampires (except Stefan) and no one brings up Bonnie's near fatal ordeal… she never speaks of the dreams that she has. The dreams that harbor icy hot flames that lick at her skin… dreams that hold pieces of that night in the church that are more vivid to her than anything she has ever known. Dreams that have her waking, drenched in sweat and reaching for her neck searching for a bite mark that has long faded; no these things are not mentioned.

By the time they make their way upstairs to Elena's bedroom they can barely keep their eyes open. Caroline and Elena pass out on her bed sleeping at opposite ends; Caroline's toes just barely brush Elena' nose completely unaware. Bonnie just barely gets to her sleeping bag. She's asleep before her head hits her pillow.

And this time when she dreams the images are not quite as vivid, blurred around the edges as though being seen through a fog of iridescent smoke… but she can make out the forms… Damon standing opposite of her best friend, holding something small between his palms… it looks like a llama…

There is a tension that builds… even as she watches them in silence and then suddenly as if someone has suddenly turned up the volume she hears Damon's voice…

"I love you… I love you Elena.'

Car is parked, bags are packed, but what kind of heart doesn't look back
At the comfortable glow from the porch, the one I will still call yours?

She sits up. The words yank her from slumber as if someone has thrown ice cold water over her. Her heart feels like it's bouncing around inside her, slamming against her insides as if trying to break free… she can hear his words as if they are on a constant repeat;

All those words came undone and now I'm not the only one
Facing the ghosts that decide if the fire inside still burns

'I love you… I love you Elena… I love you… I love you Elena.'

She doesn't know how she knows it's true…just that it is… just that he has said those words… that he has declared his love… and it's not to her…

All I have, all I need, he's the air I would kill to breathe
Holds my love in his hands, still I'm searching for something

And suddenly it's hard to breathe… and her heart is beating up her ribcage and she thinks she might be having a heart attack. Before she knows it she's up and out of the room, taking the stairs two steps at a time, she's out of the house… and then she's running hard and fast. Her bare feet hit the asphalt violently, the flesh will be bruised and torn when she stops but she doesn't care. The pain is inconsequential to what she feels in the pit of her stomach. It's a hurt that she has never felt before. An ache that squeezes her with every inhale and never allows her to truly exhale; and when she finally stops the only sound she hears is her own ragged and broken breaths as her body tries to regain the air that its lost.

Out of breath, I am left hoping someday I'll breathe again
I'll breathe again

She's not sure where she is… how far she has gone… away from the main road, she's in the woods. She takes a few steps, her body sagging beneath its own weight…its own grief. She falls against an old tree. The bark leaves scratches against her bare arm but she doesn't move… can't seem to take another step. Her vision blurs, stinging her pupils and when she inhales she hears the snapping of a twig close behind her.

Open up next to you and my secrets become your truth
And the distance between that was sheltering me comes in full view
Hang my head, break my heart built from all I have torn apart
And my burden to bear is a love I can't carry anymore

She turns and sees him…

Stefan stands there, hands in the pockets of his jeans his stare unwavering because he knew that she would be here. He says nothing… and although there are only a few feet separating them it feels like an ocean. The silence stretches between them for countless moments as though he's waiting… because he is.

Because it's what he does… it's his nature… always there, standing in the aftermath of the destruction that Damon has left… ready to clean it up…ready to apologize on his behalf. And the longer she stands there… watching him…the more it dawns on her that he always knew… this moment was inevitable.

The irony of it all would be funny if it wasn't so fucking sad.

All I have, all I need, he's the air I would kill to breathe
Holds my love in his hands, still I'm searching for something

"You warned me…" And there is a smile that crests her lips but it is breaking fast…as fast as the tears that are filling her eyes. "But I didn't listen..." She looks away from him because she can't bare to see his face… doesn't want his well meant words… She inhales sharply. "I should have listened." She remarks.

"Bonnie…" He begins not even sure what can be said when her words cut him off."

Out of breath, I am left hoping someday I'll breathe again

"He left me."

The words are soft; An acknowledgement of something that she has never been able to voice. Three words that don't even come close to conveying the way she feels… as though being ripped from the inside… torn layer by layer… her breath catches and seems to break everything inside her with its release. She wants to curl in on herself…she wants to stop this pain that her heart has never felt before… and she can't understand… Can't begin to comprehend…

'Why does it hurt this way?'

'How can it feel this bad?'

"Bonnie…" He takes a step in her direction.

It hurts to be here
I only wanted love from you
It hurts to be here…

"It hurts… it hurts to… breathe." She confesses and everything inside her crumbles just as he catches her… reaching out and pulling her into an embrace that he knows won't help.

What am I gonna do…

The tears that she has held at bay for so long… come so freely…so openly. The tears that the Earth has been crying on her behalf have finally found their true outlet and they rack her frame with the release.

All I have, all I need, he's the air I would kill to breathe
Holds my love in his hands, still I'm searching

They stand there for a time…and he allows her to grieve and when she finally looks up, her eyes meeting his, there is something that has changed… something that has been fractured and he wonders if Damon will ever be able to fix it. And when she finally speaks it's her words that confirm what Stefan has known from the moment Damon has left…

All I have, all I need, he's the air I would kill to breathe
Holds my love in his hands, still I'm searching for something…

"I never knew…Stefan… I never knew hearts could break this way."

Out of breath, I am left hoping someday

I'll breathe again…
I'll breathe again…

EPILOGUE

From a distance…

She watches them from the outskirts of the woods, completely undetected as the witch falls into the arms of a Salvatore. And there is something inside her that shifts… almost like a twinge that may be regret… perhaps something akin to sympathy. In another life…another time she could have acknowledged those emotions… but those days were long gone… there is no room for such things now. But as she watches her there is something…foreign as it is familia…and she almost wishes this is the worst pain that Bonnie Bennett will ever know…

...but she has seen what is to come… what the Sisters of Fate have laid before the witch's feet… the path that she is destined to take all that must be sacrificed… all that she will lose… her life continuously intertwined with the Salvatore…

'Yes perhaps she can still feel…'

"Bonnie Bennett…may the Gods help you…For this is just the beginning…"

TO BE CONTINUED…